Apples and Trees, and bloody mothers.

It’s all very quiet at home today. Of course it is, the school holidays have started. No chance of seeing a teen until hunger drives them downstairs. I miss being a teen in the summer. All that sleep. I know some parents are horrified that I leave them to sleep, but if they’re asleep they’re not eating their way through a weeks supply of food before lunch, and they’re not arguing with me or each other. Pat suggested I make lists of chores and get them up to ‘help’. I’ve put everything on his list. He can take time off work if he wants them domesticated.

The end of term awards have been posted online and, ever the delusional optimist, I scanned the list.  3 bloody years and not a mention. Not one. There are even awards for effort, you don’t even have to be any good, just try!

I said all this (in a loud voice) last night. Then I yanked the earphones out of their ears and said it again. Then I said it again as they hadn’t heard me as they were moaning about the earphones being removed.

They looked at me so blankly you’d have thought their brains had come out with the earplugs. Nothing. No comprehension whatsoever. They looked at each other for inspiration. “What the hell is she on about? School’s finished. Have you upset her?” They looked back at me. More blankness, and their eyes started to drift back to their screens.

“Nobody cares about awards Mum, they don’t mean anything” says oldest.
“I don’t know anyone who got one” says youngest.

“Their parents care!, they, I imagine, get a lovely warm and fuzzy feeling when they see that their offspring is trying hard at school”. “And you need to find new friends”.

I get phone calls to say my child has been quietly stuck in a lift all day and only raised the alarm once he’d eaten everything in his bag and got bored with the games on his phone, or that he’s ripped yet another pair of school trousers and can I bring a new pair in. The look or sheer joy when French teacher found out PJ was taking Spanish was worrying. The poor woman thought he was ill a couple of years ago as he had to go to the toilet so often during class.

“Hang on, our grades are good, and our behaviour is usually ok” says the budding MP.
“I haven’t had a detention is ages” says the other.

“And…”, the MP looks triumphant, “Nana says you were always bunking off school and never, ever, did more than the bare minimum. You were so bad they hit you with a belt – AT SCHOOL. The only reason she wasn’t called into school is Grandad didn’t want a phone in the house and they sent the letters home with you and you could copy Nana’s writing by the time you were 13! What is it you say about apples not falling far from trees? At least we don’t bunk off”. God, he’s really quite good when he gets going.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” asks youngest, he has a different way of dealing with difficult parents.

I’m now looking at the Tesco Value end of care homes for my mum. I’m kind of impressed though, well played mum. You waited and you got your revenge.

I can do the same.

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Over my Head

Something happened recently which made me facepalm so hard my nose went a little numb for a while.

My son uses a wheelchair. That’s fine, he’s been a chair user since he was 3 and he’s very well adjusted to it. Head tilt him at your peril. He’s no crowd pleaser, and has a death stare I think he might have got from me. He’s also great company and very funny, but he’s not the happiest in big groups, he knows this and tries to manage situations so he’s comfortable in his surroundings. It’s hard for others to understand though, why someone so confident in small groups is suddenly quiet and looking at his phone when the group grows, or includes some new people? Even I didn’t get it. “Put your phone away, stop being rude”. Of course he did neither of those things, he’s a strong minded teen and mum wading in is neither welcome nor useful. I sometimes wonder when we’re death-staring at each other if one of us will actually just keel over. Like the final battle in Harry Potter between Harry and Voldemort. I am not saying who is Harry and who is Voldemort.

I got the letter from my anaesthetist outlining what happened in surgery and why I need to attend the allergy clinic. It wasn’t particularly good reading and I feel I owe that man a drink or 10, although he may still be in the pub from one of his worst ever days at work, he’s probably hooked up with PJ’s French and Art teachers who are celebrating never having to  try and teach that boy anything ever again. Stay with me, this is heading back to my son.
It struck me how little I knew of what actually happened. Clearly, and thankfully, I’d been unconscious for most of it. The conversations I did hear when I woke up were happening over my head (me lying on a bed, the doctors standing up and talking) so I got bored trying to listen and project eye contact and just drifted off.

Clunk.

Oh My God.

That’s what it’s like for PJ, and any other chair user and probably visually impaired people too, all the bloody time. People generally have eye contact when having a conversation. It’s natural, we don’t think about it. Unless he is with a group who know him so well they are used to adjusting where they look, eventually the conversation stops involving him directly, and happens over his head. And out comes his phone. The alternatives being giving himself a crick in his neck to watch the conversation happening above him, talking too loudly to remind people he’s there or just thinking “Fuck it” and getting his phone out.

In future if I see him looking at his phone whilst people around him are having a standing up conversation, I won’t be telling him off. If anyone comments, and there’s always a parent who feels they have to, I can just say he is having a conversation, it’s just happening at his eye level. Or tell them to bugger off and mind their own business..it could go either way.

Thankfully he has friends who totally get it. I went to pick him up from a party recently, he’d negotiated a late pick up which seriously cut into my gin time. He was sat in the garden chatting, the others taking it in turns to race up and down the street in his chair. I do have to say that teens now seem far more sensible than we were. 20 kids, home alone, music was at a sensible level, soft drinks, no evidence of cigarettes and no-one throwing up at 11pm? That wouldn’t have happened in the 80’s.

End of term has meant sports day at school. My younger son much prefers wheelchair basketball to any able-bodied sport, despite being able bodied. He is the most accident prone kid I have ever come across. His hand has just healed after he fell out of his wheelchair and broke it. It was a long conversation with the plastic surgeon as to why this very able bodied child was in a wheelchair to start with, and how he managed to break bones whilst sitting down. It’s a real talent he has, this is the second time he’s done it. His team name is Fragile. The able-bodied kid in a wheelchair basketball team.

Despite his outrageous clumsiness he was selected for Javelin & Shot Putt. I was ever so glad parents aren’t allowed to go and watch, there’s no telling where the pointy stick and heavy ball may have landed. He managed to hit himself in the back with his javelin, thankfully the blunt end and he didn’t send one of his own lungs down the field. He wasn’t selected for high jump after kneeing himself in the face mid-jump in trials. How do you do that? I swear I hold my breath at school pick up on the days he has PE. God knows how his teacher feels.

That letter from the anaesthetist was followed by one from the allergy clinic. They seem to think they’ll be testing me to see if I have a true allergy to the suspected problem-causing drug. I think they’ll have to catch me first.

The dog ate my homework.

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I have 2 boobs! I know, how exciting, right? Even better, the clever surgeons made it out of my home-grown belly fat! An eco-boob if you like. No plastic was used. Had I not diligently accumulated enough podge then loads of friends offered to donate, I know ALL the best people. Sadly, unlike blood, vital organs, cash, resources and staff…the NHS is not short of blubber.

I don’t watch much telly. Truth be told I have no idea how to make it work. I can usually get a picture, or sound, getting sound to match the picture rarely happens and I end up getting so angry with it that I give up. I can only assume higher levels of testosterone than I have are required to synch the remotes. Happily this means I don’t watch programmes about plastic surgery….or they’d have had to knock me out to get me to the hospital, much like how The A Team used to get BA on board a plane.

I avoided the Breast Reconstruction Information evening, for fear reconstructed women would flash me and I would have to find nice things to say about their boobs. I struggle meeting new people, it scares me. New people flashing me was a step or ten too far. A nurse later told me that no flashing happens but I was out the other side by then.

Plastic surgery hurts. I am at a complete loss why it’s so popular. Don’t get me wrong, totally worth it to have all my tits attached to me again, and the flatter tummy minus the pregnancy-stretched skin is a lovely bonus but…that is IT. No more non-essential surgery for me. Nope nope nope. I’ll keep my wonky nose, and jowelly chin. I’m 2 weeks post-surgery today and I’m still not back to ‘normal’. I have seams which need looking after. The dressings are off, and they’re just covered with medical tape. The tape peels a bit in the shower so I have a roll to replace the bits that lose their stick. I get checked at the wound clinic later today and I’m worried. I’m missing bits of tape. I can’t replace it as our newest dog, Doof the Romanian Totweiler, chewed my fecking roll of tape! I’m thinking they’ll prefer no tape at the clinic, to a wound dressed with tape with teeth marks in it. At least I’m hoping so, I don’t want to be re-admitted as a) the food is shit b) the beds are uncomfortable c) the post-surgery ward is a big greenhouse d) there’s a heatwave coming.

Also, they have really weird hi-rise toilets. The seat is built up and you have to sort of back up to it and hop up. No mean feat dragging 4 drains and sporting a hip-hip wound. Dr’s are obsessed with when you last opened your bowels, I can tell you it’s nigh on impossible to do when your legs are dangling about 2 inches off the ground and a nurse is calling through the door to ask how you’re getting on. Then, when you claim success, they ask you to identify your poo on a chart. Pictures of poo!!! I just lied and picked the prettiest poo. I could tell I was never getting home otherwise.

Add to that an adverse reaction to anaesthetic (not intentional, despite one Dr making it sound like I’d done it on purpose), a BP that got really bored and wandered off for a day or so leaving me in ICU and blood vessels that weren’t sure they liked their new location and it was a stressful few days. Pat was making me cross as he was insisting on bringing the boys in to see me in ICU and that got my BP back in the game, so Pat thinks he’s practically a Dr now.

The team that cared for me were absolutely brilliant. Both during and after the op, I have nothing but gratitude and awe for all of them. The lead surgeon turned up to see me every morning afterwards, at 7:30…on a Saturday and Sunday.

So, if you are looking at new boob options post breast cancer. I can recommend a DIEP flap reconstruction (I am immature enough that I cannot write that without sniggering). Not going to tell you any more about it, whether you prefer the informed or Ostrich approach, it’s entirely up to you. It’s not a walk in the park, but in my opinion it is worth it.

Medical Photography – it’s exactly as much fun as it sounds.

I’m not hugely keen on having my photo taken. I’ve got better since phones got clever and I can delete 8674587 pics before finally getting an acceptable selfie to use on Facebook. I downloaded Snapchat purely to filter photos, many of my friends did the same. We’re all on there and never, ever, ‘snap’ each other, it’s solely to delete the wrinkles. Kids, you’re safe, Generation X can’t be arsed to learn more social media. We’re all over Facebook, some of us (but not me) get Twitter, but Snapchat is a step too far. We’re just deleting a decade or two.

I’ve had my one year check. It wasn’t the big event I’d built myself up for. It was on the 27th of December and I was the only customer there. Breast screening clinics are normally packed, rivalling Day 1 of a John Lewis sale for crowds and queues. I think it might actually have been Day 1 of the John Lewis sale…Wow, did everyone prioritise discounted bedding over …you know…survival??? Oh well, result! I’m in. Maybe not my finest moment, compassion-wise.

I bit back the snark when asked if I was having my right breast screened. I know, I’m mean and the technician had drawn the short straw and was working Christmas week. But, seriously? I’m stood there, stripped to the waist…and there quite clearly is only one boob. If she was going to try screening the left one we’d still be there. I didn’t snark, I answered politely and manoeuvred myself into position. Fucking “OUCH!”. “Oh, sorry. It’s a new machine and I’m not used to the controls”.  You’d have been impressed, I still didn’t snark, “And you didn’t practise on a freaking melon first??”. Looking back at this I can only think the Christmas spirit was strong last year…and therefore I was still a bit pissed. It’s lucky I’m a happy drunk.

Turned out that whilst the technician had to work Christmas week, no other bugger did. “They’ll review the scan and you’ll get a letter”. Not quite how I’d imagined that one year milestone going (party poppers and champagne at the very least!). No nice reassuring chat with a Dr pointing out the lack of lumps in the scan, bet he was in bloody JL snapping up some bargain bedding.

I got a letter and the scan was clear. I can’t add anything to that, it’s all anyone wants to read. Excuse whilst I do yet another happy dance about that.

That meant it was time to talk reconstruction. I was a bit surprised that my waiting room companions didn’t seem to be possible New Boob candidates. There was an elderly gentleman who hobbled in, and a beautiful little girl of around 6. I’m adjusting my thoughts that plastic surgeons are artists specialising in specific areas and now thinking they’re more like car bodyshops where they bash out the dents and spray over the damage.

The bodyshop surgeon was lovely. He didn’t even flinch (and I do look a bit like I only just survived a fight with Jaws right now). He referred me to Medical Photography, and circled the boobs and belly areas on the appointment card. I have no idea what the photos are for, no-one has shown me any before and afters.

Medical Photography can’t be that common, because no fucker at the reception desk knew where it was. Strongly suspect they know full well where it is but find watching panicky people run amusing. Bastards.

Here’s the full horror. Medical Photography is exactly like professional photography. A room with one wall covered by a huge white backdrop screen with powerful lights trained on the poor fucker that side of the lens…and you have to remove all clothing apart from your pants and socks. Pants and fucking socks??? I’m down one boob, I’ve been eating for GB (purely to ensure sufficient tummy fat to create new boob), I look like I pissed off a Hollywood shark (an actual watery shark with teeth) and you’re giving me white screen and bright lights for a pants and socks photoshoot?

My Gryffindor socks came through. I didn’t run and I didn’t hide.

I seriously hope the camera was focussed on my feet and not my face.

How fucking awesome that I’m still here to worry about being vain?

The One Where I Forgot My Log In.

Someone much brighter than me pointed out I can copy the FB post to here……

I think I’m going to give up on catching up, I can’t remember the order in which things have happened since lunchtime so the chances of my memory dragging up anything from August are pretty slim. Much, much, slimmer than me. It was never steroids and water retention. It was, as suspected, cake and cheese retention. It’s still here, it seems to suffer from separation anxiety and is not keen on fucking off. And now Asda have 6 bottles of wine for £25 and cheesey footballs on offer.

I also can’t remember my log in for word press, and can’t be arsed retrieving my password. FB is easier. I can log to WP on my phone but my festively plump fingers struggle with typing on that, then autocorrect just makes shit up.

I’m trying to distract myself from making decisions. Next week I go to see the plastics people. The ones who will put me back together after all the remedial works I had done earlier this year. Whilst I am extremely grateful that the necessary was done, I am left looking like a human version of a botched house on DIY SOS. Or, the doll people from the Lenor adverts. The patchwork ones? I have to decide what size boobs I want. That sounds like one of the best choices in the world but it’s not that easy.

I’m thinking smaller, much smaller. There’s a pic taken of me last week where I’m looking decidedly matronly. There’s a tipping point somewhere, where being curvy takes you from being like Barbara Windsor to Hattie Jacques, and the first you know of it is a photo. Where the fuck did this ‘shelf’ come from? Half of it isn’t even attached to me and is defying gravity just to keep up with it’s neighbour.

If I go smaller though, my bottom half will look even larger, with my skinny top half sneering at it. I wonder just how much fat they’re prepared to remove. See? It’s not easy. I’m tempted to take in a photo of Kylie and ask if they can do that. She had breast cancer too, we’re very similar. I’m just worried they tell me that Madge Bishop is the closest they can get me.

Then, drumroll please. It’s my one year check at the end of Dec. This is freaking me out and I don’t know why. Well, that’s crap. I do know why, I’m terrified they find something. I’m more scared of this than I was heading into surgery or chemo. That was all to fix a problem, this is looking to see if the problem went away. What if it…No. I can’t even type that. Five minutes of fear then get on with it. I really am a head-in-the-sand type. Well, head in the sand or in a glass of red. Either works.

My children are being at brilliant at distracting me too. One of them broke his hip in a spectacular crash from the monkey bars. He’s currently ‘walking’ up and downstairs using only his hands on the bannisters. I can’t watch. I can’t even shout at him for fear of making him fall. If he falls again his Dad can take him to hospital and explain, I did it last time.

The other one is playing the least fun game ever of how-many-clothes-can-I-lose-or-rip-in-one-term. I would not be at all surprised to find him at the school gates in nothing but shorts and looking bemused at my rage. Nothing bothers that one, nothing related to school uniform anyway.

And…the spaniel is back to peeing in the wetroom. I don’t think she likes the cold.

Send gin. And domestos.

Get me to the wedding on time.

I’m just going to pretend there has been no huge gap since my last post, we’ll just carry on like nothing happened and catch up eventually. OK?

I’m applying the same logic to the state of my house and size of my ironing pile.

The Wedding.  We, The O’D’s, never EVER get to a wedding both on time and still speaking to each other. Sometimes we manage one, never both. I once missed a family wedding that I really wanted to go to, because I just wasn’t confident I wouldn’t throw my dinner at Pat.

One Thursday, in August (Shhh, we’re ignoring the gap – keep UP!), I had a bit of a day scheduled. Penultimate radiotherapy session first, dash (whilst not breaking any speed limits) to another hospital for a herceptin injection and then get home and get ready to see L & S get married.

Radio usually takes 15-20 minutes. 30 minutes later and I’m still lying on a fairly uncomfortable ‘bed’ and nothing is happening. People come in and measure up, deem everything satisfactory and disappear…then nothing fucking happens. 3 sodding times. Don’t they KNOW? I’ve got to get out of here, come on…ZAP!

“We’re having a problem with the machine”
No Shit! “Oh, can you fix it, or can we use another one? Can I come back some other time..add the session on to the end?” I don’t want to seem unreasonable, and normally I wouldn’t care…but not today, please not today. Oh Fuck, it’s the O’D wedding curse.

“The other machines are all booked up. Do you mind if we bring the IT guy in? He has to look at something behind that wall <waves vaguely behind my limited field of vision, since I’m still flat on my back>, we’ll cover you up. Is that ok?”

I’m married to an IT guy. If there’s some big techy problem no covering up is required, they won’t see people. Promise. They might even fall over naked people whilst heading towards the techy stuff. They will never fall over techy stuff.

“I have to be at a wedding this afternoon. I don’t care if you bring the entire IT dept in here. Please, just get it working. <pause> Have you tried switching it off and on again?”

Apparently I’m not as funny as I think I am. I was being bloody serious.

The machine eventually worked. I’m fairly sure they switched it off and on again. I was off that ‘bed’ and running before they’d lowered it back to ground level.

Thankfully the traffic was light and the needle worked faultlessly at the next hospital. I think the first hospital might have called ahead and warned them I was slightly stressed,  and getting me out of there as fast as possible would be wise. They sort of darted me and let me go.

Not long after and we’re all suited and booted and on our way to the wedding. Hurrah! Not having any hair to do takes quite a lot of stress out of getting ready. It’s only a matter of time before bald weddings catch on (no eyelashes also equals no running mascara – there are benefits).

I couldn’t work out why Pat was stressed. We were in the car, plenty of time to spare, T had called to warn that the motorway was closed due to rampaging sheep or something, so we had diverted. I could tell that he was still uptight though, the way my head kept bouncing off the window as we went round corners was a total giveaway. The boys were looking up from their phones and everything.

“What’s up? Why the rush?”
“We’re not going to make it in time, we’ve only got 10 minutes”
“Eh? The wedding isn’t until 3”
“No, 2:30. S told us”
Laughing “No, it’s 3. He told you that so we wouldn’t be late”

We got there on time, but not speaking to each other. I still think it was funny.

The wedding was everything a wedding should be. It was a fabulous day and night, surrounded by friends and family celebrating. We laughed and danced and partied hard. We forgot we were cross with each other and all the shite we’d dealt with over the past few months. You reminded us of what matters, and what we do, “for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward….”

Thank you Mr & Mrs B, for letting us share your day.

I did make my last radiotherapy session the following day. Pat drove me there as I was still a little wobbly, there was no jumping off the bed and running that day.

“Are you OK, what’s happened?”
“Wedding. Hungover. Shhhhhh….”

It is good to be getting back to normal.

Hello? Hello? Anyone there?

It’s been a while, have you got fed up and buggered off? I wouldn’t blame or judge you if you have. I couldn’t even remember what the last post was about, had to read it again, that’ll cause a burst of excitement from Facebook, they’ll be messaging me and advising me to ‘boost’ my post for a mere $20 and millions of people will flock to read PLaU. I did that once, and got a lot of people who seemed to want to be unicorns, I suspect they were very disappointed.

I’ve been quiet because I’ve been busy, and then I’ve been tired, and also because our pc is poorly. I have no idea what the diagnosis is (I was told but when he talks computer my brain goes lalalalalalala) but one symptom seems to be the keyboard is now dyslexic. It adds 150 extra characters in, it leaves the same number out. It’s bloody annoying. Pat gets cross with me when I get shouty with the pc, so it was easier just to play Pandapop.

I’ve waved goodbye to my oncologist for a few months, she is lovely but the less I see of her the better things are. She wrote me prescription for 10 years supply of Tamoxifen, that made the pharmacy gasp. We agreed on a monthly dispensing, that worked well since I hadn’t brought a truck and they didn’t have that many pills.

I cheerfully said goodbye to the nurse who came up with nuggets of wisdom about not sleeping under a duvet, or sticking one foot out from under the covers, if I’m too hot in bed. That made me laugh out loud, because my mind just works that way. She just gave me an odd look and put my reaction down to the onset of menopause I think. I think that because she then told me all the wonderful menopausal shite I have to look forward to. It was a good 20 minutes of gloom. I’m going to try really hard to not have any of the symptoms just to annoy her. I don’t think I will ever understand some people’s enthusiasm (there really is no other way to describe it) at setting out every damned thing that might go badly. It’s fucking annoying is what it is.

Fired up with a determination to prove her wrong on every count, and a load of things she didn’t even mention,  I stormed through the last chemo hangover. If it’s possible to storm from under a blanket on the sofa. Then I went on a hen weekend.

This hen weekend had been my total focus of getting through chemo on schedule. I wanted it DONE, not halfway through or just one more. Done. I’ve been drinking juice made from vegetables only pigs have eaten prior to the last couple of years. Turns out we’ve been feeding pigs superfoods all this time. I can’t back that up, but did you see kale on any menu before 2015? I’ve been taking tablets open water swimmers use to stop them catching bugs.  (There is nothing in this world that would convince me to swim in the Thames now). Something worked, and I made to Lu’s Do having finished chemo.

It was FAB. We’d booked this Grand Designs type house, and some bits of that were a bit confusing (who the fuck invented a kettle that looks like a frigging tap?- I owe them blistered fingers), but the company was brilliant. We laughed, we danced, we drank….. lots. There was an olympic sized hot tub, if hot-tubbing was an Olympic event. I couldn’t go in as I’m not allowed in hot tubs. might have made that up as I really don’t like hot tubs, but it was reasonable excuse. Sorry you lot, I lied. But, if we do it all again next year I’m still not getting in. It felt so good to be out and partying again. Like life is getting back on track. That was Friday  night, Saturday night I had to go to bed early, turns out I’m not quite at full party fitness yet. No-one tell that nurse, ok?

I all my excitement at getting back to normal my lack of eyebrows was really pissing me off. You can wear a hat if being bald worries you but there’s not much you can do about your brows. I’m not much of a make up person, if I’d thought about it I’d have been pencilling them in long before they’d gone just so I knew where I was aiming at. Hindsight is always 20/20. Also, I don’t want to pencil anything in. I already have to remember to add a boob and hair/hat. Quite frankly I can’t be bloody arsed to have to add more bits before leaving the house. I just want everything where it ought to be, with minimal effort from me. If that sounds petulant, fine. I’m petulant.

Microblading! Move over garlic bread, microblading is the future. Thanks to Dawn at Sunrise in Marlow I have my brows back. They don’t look like fuzzy felt, I don’t have to pencil them in, they’re just there. Right where they ought to be, breaking up the dinner plate look I was not rocking before. (large white face, no definition). If you are having brow woes, you know what to do. Turns out I don’t need to wear anything on my head now, well I do on days like today when it was peeing down, as much of my self confidence returned with my brows, weird huh?  Don’t worry about the wig being neglected, she’s living the banana stand and is quite happy there. Now I just have to get to grips with gluing on some eyelashes…after a hen do comes the wedding…and there’s always some fucker with a camera.

I can’t type any more or I’ll throw this sodding keyboard at the screen, and that will really annoy Pat.

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